Friday, March 30, 2012

Comeback Kid/Foundation/Living With Lions/Such Gold/Close Your Eyes
Wednesday, March 21st 2012
Local 662, St. Petersburg, FL

Looking at the line-up, it seemed like it was going to be a crowded evening.  Not so -- several unfortunate events transpired, and while the remaining bands were still extremely good, more quantity of their quality would have been welcome.  So what happened?  Christian hardcore band Close Your Eyes either pulled out or were mistakenly included on the poster.  New York's heavy pop-punkers Such Gold apparently broke down on their way to St. Pete.  And Living With Lions, from Vancouver, did make it, but sadly I only caught a few songs.  They sounded cool, so having given them a closer listen online, I decided they come across like an international smörgåsbord of Millencolin, Taking Back Sunday and fellow Canadians Belvedere.  Further national solidarity was noted through one members wearing of a Propagandhi shirt.  Since that's all I have to say, I'll just end by paraphrasing The Damned: linklinklink!,,

It's the first time in Tampa Bay for Foundation, but you would never know from the love that the crowd showers upon them.  Apparently not disappointed by the lack of 'Build Me Up Buttercup' [er, that's The Foundations], the audience goes for it with this Atlanta straight-edge hardcore band, who communicate with them perfectly.  Or at least they would have, if they had let their music do the talking for them.  Vocalist Tomas Pearson fronts everything with fantastic passion, but falls prey to doing a hardcore sermon from the punk pulpit.  It's not offputting or terrible compared to some straight edge ensembles, but rather cliché.  If nothing else though, his enthusiasm at the age of 28 does perhaps show that being in a band is the best way to keep ones cynicism about music and punk pushed evermore into the future.  A solid foundation for the headliners built, and two welcome false-endings later ("this is that same song but part 2!"), they exit.  

Comeback Kid scare the crap out of me with their sudden opening, devoid of clues such as warm-up noises or a hello.  Pit enthusiasts impersonate the kamikaze bugs from Starship Troopers, piling themselves all the way up to the head-height of stagebound and very tall frontman, Andrew Neufeld.  The drums are immense and command excitement.  Last time I saw Comeback Kid was in Manchester, England in 2006, and they were underwhelming.  Maybe at the time they were getting used to their new line-up or the venue had bad sound, but it doesn't matter now -- this band, so aptly named for a second chance, do a great job.  They play a mix of material, including huge tracks like 'All in a Year' and 'Die Tonight' from their equally appropriately named 'Turn It Around' debut.  The State Theatre across the street, where the band tell us they have always performed in the past, surely couldn't measure up to the intimacy here.  Not so intimate though, that giant dickheads can keep themselves from throwing trash cans across the room on multiple occasions, landing un-comically on peoples heads.  Getting hurt at these gigs might be par for the course, but for some reason this just seems a different situation to being clocked by a flying windmill arm (which I was).  Perhaps hoping to soothe our injuries (this is the Symptoms + Cures tour after all), Comeback Kid end with the somewhat tired 'Wake The Dead'.  But, with some assistance from another Propagandhi shirt, they leave having overall reminded us that Canada often just does things right.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

set and setting/Windhand/Flying Snakes/Old Soul
Fubar, St. Petersburg, FL
Thursday March 8th, 2012
In the land of the rising sun, shows sometimes end by 9pm or so, to allow time for other activities afterwards.  So it is perhaps fitting that this evening of dark, distinctly non-rising-sun music should start as late as 9:30.  Openers Old Soul (who are up past their bedtime if they think that name really describes them) are on tour from Michigan.  They play black metal-tinged screamo complete with loud and quiet parts, across a selection of songs with one word titles like Forest.  I only caught a couple of them, so either they started early to help move things along or the time allotment was just the price they had to pay for being added to the bill last minute.  They recently released a record, Who are Willing to Draw Close, the second part of a concept album.
Before the next act, a man comes up to me talking with a Grateful Dead attititude and what he calls an Oliver Twist accent.  This proved to be coincidental.  When Flying Snakes begin performing, it’s obvious that These Arms Are Not Snakes but canvases for tattoos, and one display appears to be of Big Ben or some similar clock.  Their arms are also used to play brilliant rhythmic heaviness, a mixture of sludge and punk.  The band only come to a full stop at one point in the set, and the only thing close to a gimmick is when a sound almost like a siren is heard.  But it was probably just more guitar. 
Screenshots from the upcoming Doom 4 game were leaked online a few weeks ago, showing scenes of a post-hell nightmare on Earth.  The sight of Virginia doom metal band Windhand is thankfully a lot more pleasant.  First, vocalist Dorthia is single-handedly representing female musicianship here on this International Women’s Day.  Second, bassist Nathan is wearing a white Mr Bungle t-shirt, and looking refreshingly un-the-part.  Their driving sound is really cool and a welcome change of pace, until two apparently amusing fuck-ups (equipment?), the second of which leads to their early exit.
As if to make up for gained time, set and setting spend a long period setting up.  Aha.  Anyway, during this lull a huge crowd builds, and by the time the set (groan) is going Fubar is basically wall-to-wall with people.  I say going, because their particular style of Mogwai, Day For Airstrikes, et al instrumental ambience is so politely woven into the evening that I barely noticed they had started before being entranced (a loud cheer from the audience was the tip-off).  The subtle build-up of intensity always makes bands such as this one seem intelligent, so it’s only right that set and setting have taken the misunderstood poster-child for stupid musicians — the drummer — and given him a twin. (The group does feature literal siblings, but only one is a drummer).  Actually, they so believe in the potential of the stick-bearer that there are two and a half of them.  A guy is sitting on the stage by the wall, occasionally hitting a cymbol, though whether the sitting or the hitting is incidental isn’t all that clear.  There comes a point where the connection to the other acts on the bill is more obvious, as some in the crowd are overtaken with headbanging desires and dual guitars.  The influence of pairs next leads set and setting to perform two encores, which also reach heavy heights.  At 1am perhaps it’s a bridge too far, but as tonight is the start of a 36 day tour, going big is understandable.  The sun may set, but it will rise again tomorrow!